Yesterday being another glorious sunny one, it was time for a little light gardening. I planted a particularly pink zinnia, phlox and finally got my hands on some chocolate cosmos, which I shall duly photograph and blog as they promise to be stunning. Along with the aesthetics I carefully questioned Roger in The Secret Garden about the best thing for a cucumber’s powdery mildew. We agreed on a light fungicidal treatment to be applied once every two weeks – nothing too arduous and given the cucumber was, in all other respects, completely healthy and fruiting, I was hopeful it was just a minor blip. (We also discussed how to get your courgettes fruiting when there seems to be masses of flowers and no actual baby courgettes: cut off the male flower (make sure it has a stalk and not a small budding courgette attaching it to the plant) and thrust it gently but firmly, in a seductive manner, perhaps all the while humming a little Barry White, into the heart of a female flower. Yeah – good luck with that.)
Anyway back to the powdery mildew. The fungicide was apparently quite strong and you only need a tiny bit so I diluted it into a watering can and tipped it over the worst affected leaves. Then I remembered seeing somewhere you were supposed to cut off the worst of it, which made sense, so I applied the secateurs to a particularly thick stem attaching the most mildewed leaves. It took a bit of strength to cut through; that may have been because it was actually the main stem of the plant and within maybe 10 minutes – and despite some emergency first aid involving much swearing and some masking tape – the top 5 ft of the plant wilted and died. On the plus side though, I may have invented the first dwarf cucumber and there is no more powdery mildew.
Feeling much annoyed with myself I stomped back into the kitchen for lunch. Given the heat I wanted something refreshing but more substantial than a salad – gazpacho seemed just the thing. Here’s my version – using the first and perhaps the last of our home-grown cucumbers. It was a sentimental affair.
This makes 2 portions.Whizz up in a blender the following: 4 large tomatoes, skinned and cored; 1/2 a cucumber, peeled; 1/2 an onion, chopped, 1 clove garlic, chopped; basil leaves – as many as you like; 1 slice of stale bread, crusts cut off; 1 tbsp really good red wine vinegar; a good slurp of extra virgin olive oil; up to 500ml water – but go easy with this, adding a little at a time otherwise you may just end up with a lot of water – I only used about 300ml in the end.Once smooth, check the seasoning and you may want to add more oil or basil or vinegar and then chill until needed.
You can of course add peppers – I just didn’t have any – and top with anything like croutons, hard-boiled egg, chopped ham, olives, more basil, whatever you like. Serve very cold in searing heat and really savour the cucumber taste because it may be the last one you get.